ALA recently announced the winners of children’s and YA book awards, and it got me thinking about all the books I loved as a kid.
Growing up with three older sisters, who were much older than me (seven, eleven, and twelve years older), books were read to me since the day I came home from the hospital. My sister Tammy is probably the best book reader, especially when she read The Monster at the End of this Book. She has Grover’s voice down and the more scared he got with the prospect of a monster at the end of the book, the more scared she sounded.
But it wasn’t just Grover. We had an overflowing bookshelf of books that I grew up with, as my dad said about me, “You were always up in your room reading.” I re-read books until the pages fell apart. Frog and Toad were my good friends. I had tea with Frances. And all the Sweet Pickles animals taught me things, though I probably should’ve read Yakety Yak Yak Yak a few more times.
By the time I got to 2nd grade, one of my favorite books was The BFG. I don’t remember the name of my 2nd grade teacher (Mrs. Dixon, maybe?), but she read The BFG to us in class, and I was so proud that I had already read it and that I had my own copy of the book I could bring to class and read along with her. The story of Sophie and bone-crunching giants and snozzcumbers fascinated me, but I just really wanted the BFG to come blow dreams into my bedroom window at night.
I read a lot of other chapter books when I was young, too, like the Encyclopedia Brown books, a ton of different Choose Your Own Adventure books, and I loved Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, but if I had to pick chapter books that I read again and again and again, there are just two authors you need to know – Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.
I wanted to be Ramona Quimby. She was ballsy, up for anything, and she’d get in trouble, but she always had the best of intentions. Well, almost always.
And who didn’t love Judy Blume’s Freckle Juice and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Blubber? And what girl didn’t whisper to other girls about Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? or Forever? Judy Blume told us about bullying and made us sympathize. Judy Blume told us things adults shied away from telling us and she didn’t make them scary.
I still read quite a few young adult books, and some middle grade books, too, because there are still great stories being published. And now, it’s time for me to dive into one. I hope Dumplin’ holds up to all the praise.